Cycling and Mountain Biking have really taken off, and Rotorua is teeming with two wheeled adventurers. Whether you’re looking for a backcountry MTB mission, a bikepacking challenge or a cruisy e-bike cycle trail day, there are many great options around Waimangu Volcanic Valley.
We’re pretty lucky to have this mountain bike gem right on our doorstep. The Rainbow Mountain Loop combines the Summit Track with Te Ranga, a beautifully crafted grade 4 downhill.
There’s no denying it, it’s a hard slog to get up to the summit, and the up trail is shared with walkers, so keep an eye out. You’ll see the entrance to Te Ranga from the top of the Summit Track when you hop out onto the gravel, but don’t miss the 360 degree views from the summit before heading back down. Then, you’re in for a treat on the downhill. A couple of techy surprises to keep you on your toes in the first section, then the trail opens out to fast, flowing singletrack goodness back to the base. Loop back to the start on the lower Rainbow Mountain track, part of Te Ara Ahi.
Te Aha Ahi – Thermal by Bike
If you’re in Rotorua, this is the fastest way to get to Waimangu Volcanic Valley by bike. A Heartland Ride on the New Zealand Cycle trail, Te Ara Ahi keeps you off the main highway right from the city centre until you get to the rural Waimangu Road.
It then continues on to Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, where a hot soak awaits to soothe those tired legs. After that, the easiest way to get back is on a shuttle with Thermal Land Shuttle – make sure you book that in before you start your ride.
Whakarewarewa Forest Loop
One of the newest creations from the Rotorua Trails Trust, and the newest addition to Ngā Haerenga, New Zealand Cycle Trails Great Rides. A beginner friendly grade 2, and perfect for e-bikes, this trail loops around the Whakarewarewa and Tokorangi Forests with views out to Lake Rotorua, Tikitapu and Rotokakahi.
Once you pop out by SH5, after the Baja section, the loop takes you on Te Ara Ahi back to Waipa Car Park. Or at this point, turn left to follow Te Aha Ari southbound and within 15km, you’ll find yourself with a beer in hand a pizza on the way at the Waimangu Local Store & Café!
If you’re more of a backcountry buff, then you’ll find the trails in Whirinaki Forest right up your street. The Moerangi Track is a 40km epic day ride in Jurassic Park style native bush. One of the best examples of remaining virgin native forest, Whirinaki is a haven for native birds, the rowdy Kaka calls creating the backdrop to your ride.
For an equally beautiful shorter option, there’s the 16km Whirinaki Forest Loop. Don’t be fooled by the distance, this is an honest ride with some descent climbing.
Wherever you’re heading back to, you’re likely to drive right by Waimangu Volcanic Valley on the way home, or maybe a coffee stop on the way out?
Here’s one for the bike packers out there. Kopiko Aotearoa is a route across the width of New Zealand’s North Island, from Taranaki to East Cape. This 1000km multi-day ride takes you through some stunning landscapes as you travel through the less-visited regions of the country.
The route includes the Waikato River Trails, the Timber Trail, the Forgotten Highway, the Motu Trails and Rere Falls, as well as Lake Waikaremoana. It also brings you within 4km of Waimangu Volcanic Valley for a refuel at the Waimangu Local Store & Café, and if you’ve got any energy left in the legs, a wander through the valley.
The route can be ridden at any time, but many riders take advantage of the group starts in February, organised by the route founders, the Kennett Brothers.
Ngakuru & Waikite Valley
If skinny tyres are more your scene, you’ll love the rural roads of Ngakuru and Waikite Valley. There’s a heap of options between SH30 and SH5 so it’s easy to piece together a loop ride to fit your distance goals. Tumunui Road is a firm favourite with lycra lovers, and if you’re up for a honest climb, you’ll find the perfect challenge in Waikite Valley Road. If you’re heading back to town on SH5 and have some gas left in the tank, head on out on Waimangu Road and after 6km of winding tarseal you’ll find the Waimangu Local Store & Café for a refuel!